HR Magazine, August 2000: Tips for Choosing a Concierge Service

By Karla Taylor Aug 1, 2000
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HR Magazine, August 2000

Vol. 45, No. 8

  1. Look critically at both your company and your employees. Start by asking whether such a service would truly solve a business problem—recruiting, retaining or helping 60-hour-a-week workers manage their personal lives.

Then ask the people who know best if a concierge service would be useful: your employees. You might even hire a consultant to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment, including employee surveys and focus groups, interviews with senior management, exit interviews, and a thorough look at industry benchmarks.

If possible, avoid offering concierge services in isolation. “It’s very difficult to market resources to your employees—if they don’t know about them or understand them, they won’t use them,” says Karol Rose, managing director of consulting with in Westport, Conn. “By offering a concierge as part of your total package of benefits and policies, you get a comprehensive approach that allows employees to choose.”

  1. Ask hard questions of prospective concierge firms. Exactly how do they deliver their services? How big is their vendor database? How much service do they themselves provide, as opposed to subcontracting? What’s their pricing structure, and will they cost out a variety of scenarios for you? What kind of management reports can you get? Can you have a trial run and sample bill?

Don’t be afraid to ask for innovations or to negotiate terms and prices. Also be sure to check references—and to listen to your instincts about how responsive the concierges seem.

  1. Look carefully at liability. Who’s responsible if your concierge’s dry cleaner ruins a suit or its mechanic wrecks a car? The concierge services interviewed for this article say several things help them cope with such problems: They work only with vendors that are licensed, insured and bonded. They require your employees to sign agreements acknowledging that the business relationship (and thus the liability issue) exists between the employee and the vendor, not the employer and not the concierge. They post liability disclaimers on their Web sites. They carry insurance designed especially for their industry. And, legalities aside, most say they will go to bat on behalf of a dissatisfied employee.

Even so, your company’s own lawyer should study all agreements, waivers and disclaimers to make sure you’re protected in case the worst happens.

  1. Finally, remember that when it comes to leading balanced lives, even the best benefit accomplishes only so much. “Concierge services can save you time and make you feel good about your employer, so I think they are very helpful,” says Ellen Galinsky, president and cofounder of the Families and Work Institute in New York. “But do they get at the root cause of work and family problems? No.”
Neither employees nor employers should fool themselves into believing that anything makes up for a relentless pressure-cooker atmosphere or an untenable workload. “Research shows that it’s how you work and how much satisfaction you feel that makes the real difference,” Galinsky says. “Those are the things that are most important. They’re at the core” of a truly productive workplace.

– Karla Taylor

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